By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training, Tucson, Arizona
September 3, 2015
One of the most popular sayings in all modern culture is “shouldering the (innocuous emotional word)” when describing someone taking on a problem. When we think about it, we as a society tend to place a lot of hope or anger on one or two elements of a problem rather than looking at the whole. It was like the description of Scapegoating in the great documentary called “Catching Hell.” In case you forgot, the Chicago Cubs lost the National League play-off finals to the eventual Major League Champion Florida Marlins back in 2003. Steve Bartman interfered with what could have been an important "out" that would put the Cubs closer to victory. Instead, the Cubs imploded and lost the game. Now of course, the Cubs still had game 7 and another chance to get to the World Series, but they ultimately lost. Their two best pitchers blew Game 6 and Game 7, which was shocking since ESPN and other sports news outlets had all but given them the World Series berth. Their offense, led by a juiced up Sammy Sosa, failed to produce. The fans were left weepy and crying. Never mind the fact the Marlins had a stacked pitching staff and a great offense, it was all the Cub’s fault. And they had to blame the loss on Bartman, because it was convenient at the time. Instead of looking at the poor managing, poor pitching and poor hitting, they blamed it on a scrawny baseball coaching wannabe that lost his good sense for a few seconds. Batman in effect “shouldered the burden of 100 years of championship futility” even though it was just one play. When I was a sports writer, we used that term quite a bit, especially when it came to the star players of any team on any sport. “They shoulder the hope for the school’s first championship,” “The shouldered the pride of an entire small town” or worse yet, “they shouldered the agony of losing a close game.” We used to love that sort of melodramatic stuff, because it would indirectly give us an outlet of blame without wrecking the psyche of some young kid that wasn’t getting paid for the sport he was playing. We just didn’t care about the pro sports. They all got plenty of money to not worry about such trivial things.
What I am getting at here may seem rather nonsensical, but look at it this way. When we shift the hopes and dream or the dismal gloom of anything in our society, we tend to refer to it as shouldering something. It makes sense when you really think about it, because our shoulders tend to be one of the most important physical aspects of our life. For baseball players, they need their shoulders in order to turn and project power into their bat, allowing them to get hits and home runs. Cyclists especially need their shoulders to maintain balance and precision on their bicycles (not to mention all of the leaning takes a huge toll). For me, my life has been hell for my shoulders. I already suffer from tendinitis in my hands and forearms, so some days it is just difficult to maintain a good grip. It is why I try to hide my disdain from people that have really good grips. I’m jealous so to speak, for I have to be rather careful in regards to what I do with my hands. It used to get really rough when I would work my tools and then have some repetitive motions issues later on in the day. It happened when I had to carry a lot of ladders as well, working my entire body, not just the shoulders. Anyway, I really had an old flashback with my shoulder issues this past weekend at work. Recently, I have been finding myself doing more and more truck loading, mainly due to the fact fewer men are working on the weekends. Well at least men that look like they can sling large and heavy boxes for 12 hours a day.
Now, I know I am capable and fit enough to handle this sort of work, but it is not like I was having an easy time of it. I was stuck with loading the California bound shipping, which means I had to deal with a nearly never-ending stream of boxes to load and ship. During the course of all three days I worked doing this, I maybe filled the equivalent of a full semi trailer each day. Just imagine it, one of those trailers you see on the highway and then imagine it stuffed to the gills with boxes, from all the way to the ceiling and side to side. It was not something I really wanted to do, but then again, you can’t ask an old person or a 120-pound woman to do that sort of job. They are gonna pick on the 6-3, 245-pound guy that looks strong as an ox and has never broken down from any of his other assignments. So yeah, thanks a lot Parsons Training! Just kidding. If it wasn’t for Parsons Training, I’m sure I would've injured myself by now or passed out. Aside from the obvious stress of loading a few thousand boxes on a truck, you have to constantly watch your footing in the loading dock and use ladders to get stuff to the top of the truck. I didn’t run at all this weekend even though I really wanted to, mainly because my whole damn body was hurting, especially my hands and shoulders.
This new development at work has really gotten me thinking and a little worried. The downside of being fit and strong looking is obviously I’m going to be a top pick, and with no one else that seems capable of the said work, I might start finding myself doing this sort of thing more often. I guess I can look at it with a positive, though I wish they would pick on the overweight guys just to give them a little jumpstart to improve their fitness! Okay, that was kind of mean, but hey, I’m getting tired of the hot trucks! Lifting all those boxes gets pretty old! Now here comes the other issue I have to start dealing with….how is this going to affect my health? Now I already know there is some good to come out of this, for I at least burn some calories and get some work in my arms, but this sort of thing takes a huge toll after a couple days. This means I am going to have to start being more diligent in keeping my shoulders healthy, because now the overuse factor can be thrown in. If anything, my biggest setback from this past week was dealing wit the excessive soreness in that area.
To start with, our shoulders are certainly one of the more interesting body parts. Aside from the fact it is so unstable, we basically have an oversized bone trying to fit into a socket that is much smaller. Surrounded by a bevy of bones and various muscles, everyday chores tend to put stress on the shoulder. Now for me, my shoulder issues have been a common, rather embarrassing problem over the last few months. My overuse of them at work have gravely affected my bench pressing, which is kind of the foundation of all my hopes and health dreams. How can I get a Mega Man tattoo if I can’t even sniff 300 pounds? Especially when I struggle with 200? Now, my weight training schedule has changed from three sessions a week to two, so that has been adversely affecting the results, but the fact I sleep on my side a lot and am constantly knocking my body out of whack can also be an attributed problem. If you don’t have solid shoulders, you don’t have a solid foundation to work with in your overhead weight training. Over the last year or so, I have tried fixing some of the problems by sleeping on the flat floor in my house (so I cannot sleep on my side and put stress on my arm and shoulder) or getting some chiropractor work done. I’ve had mixed results so far, but it might be time to actually put some better work on one of the more important body parts.
Now keeping your shoulders healthy is a bit tricky. Some people believe that working the bench press is the perfect way to do this, merely because you are strengthening so many muscle groups in the process. But in regards to the shoulder, you may be restricting them a little bit. In order to give them a little more work in regards to strengthening and creating flexibility, doing other workouts such as deep push-ups (or possibly PVC pipe push-ups to give you more movement) or single arm overhead cable pulls can help in developing the shoulders a little bit. When you lack movement and have tightness, this can lead you to over utilizing neck muscles while you lift and move, which has something of a problem for me this past weekend. Once my shoulders started getting overworked or stiff, I could feel all of my muscles being used from the neck up. Heck, when I went into Parson’s on Tuesday, not only were my hands sore and problematic, I kind of hid the fact my neck was also bothering me a little bit (see, I sometimes hide things from Jon!). Now fixing up this problem is quite important, but from the websites I surfed and looked at, it seems working the rotator cuff muscles is one of the more conditions of attaining better shoulder strength.
Now the rotator cuff is not just a muscle, it is actually comprised of four different muscle groups….infraspinatus, supraspinatus, subscapularis and the teres minor. As the diagram I used for the blog would indicate, these four muscles groups all have work in motion in order to maintain proper rotation and proper usage. So when one does not really work all of these muscles correctly, problems are going to arise. The main issue primarily revolves around the supraspinatus, which is usually the biggest fear when people hear about their favorite baseball player or quarterback suffering a rotator cuff problem. Surrounded by bone and the smallest of the four muscles, this particular muscle can be one of the most important to build and maintain. If you injure this muscle, it might almost certainly mean surgery and a long recovery. You especially need this muscle because it maintains the lateral motion of your arm. It’s also important in regards to arm abduction, which allows you to lift your arms up and keep them level with your shoulders. There are plenty of exercise that people suggest, but this website from Healthline provided the most simple and least expensive solutions to people having issues with shoulder strength. http://www.healthline.com/health/rotator-cuff-injury-stretches#3
Now I know I have a pretty long way to go in order to maintain some better shoulder health. Hopefully I won’t be loading trucks to often, for that will be the first step. But more importantly, one really needs to first work on flexibility as opposed strength. When you get the desired results in regards to performance and maintenance, getting the strength associated will eventually come along. For me, I have a long ways to go, I can only be thankful I have some simple tools now to start working on the issues.
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Parsons Training is a Tucson leader in fitness and personal wellness training. Every personal trainer with this company designs and implements effective fitness programs for their clients; these programs serve as the foundation for good health, fitness, and wellness. Additional information about Parsons Training is available at http://www.parsonspersonaltraining.com
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.